Registering a boat: all you need to know about the administrative procedures

Have you just purchased a pleasure boat or are you considering purchasing it in the near future?

Required in most cases, theregistration of the pleasure craft is an essential administrative step, to be carried out as soon as possible. When, why and how to register your boat are questions we provide you with valuable answers.

Our support service is dedicated to both boaters and nautical professionals at sea or in inland water.

Maritime and river navigation areas

Whether you want to go to sea or browse the river network (including canals, rivers and lakes) in France or internationally, the procedures and taxes depending on the technical characteristics of the boat are different.

While river navigation does not involve tax, registration is only valid for this area and is done with the DDT (Departmental Directorate of Territories) of the sector.

About the maritime navigation, it is managed by the DDTM (Departmental Directorate of Territories and the Sea), may be subject to taxes and offers the possibility of navigating not only in maritime territorial waters but also in internal river waters.

Registration of the vessel for navigation at sea

What is a boat registration?

Just like every land vehicle, boats and VNMs (motor watercraft jet ski, jet ski, etc.) must be registered, whether new or used, if they meet certain criteria. This single registration must appear at a minimum inside the cockpit as well as on the hull of the boat in a visible manner, either painted directly or on a plate attached to the hull (performing the same role as the license plate on your car).

You should know that thecompulsory registration in maritime zone only concerns boats whose length reaches at least 2.5 meters or who have a motor with a power greater than or equal to 4.5 kW.

For the sailboats over 7 meters, the name of the boat and the two letters of the registration area must be visibly displayed. For motor boats, the registration number will be entered.

How is the boat registration number determined?

In France, the boat registration for the maritime zone (coastal or offshore navigation zone) has 8 characters, a number assigned by the DDTM (Departmental Directorate of Territories and the Sea) formerly known as the Office of Maritime Affairs. The first two are letters corresponding to the registration area (there are 45 throughout France, including the overseas departments and territories) and the following six are a letter followed by five digits, as stipulated in theDecree of October 21, 2016 relating to the registration of ships and other vessels at sea.

For example, pleasure craft registered in Toulon may bear the following registration: TL A12345. In Ajaccio, it will be AJ A12345 and in La Réunion RU A12345.

In order to ensure the visibility of the registration, the French administration regulates the height of painted characters:

Hull length


Motor boat over 2.5 meters in length

Less than 7 meters

no obligation

4 cm minimum

7 to 12 meters

4 cm minimum

7 cm minimum

12 meters and more

7 cm minimum (with registration visible on the stern of the boat)

12 cm minimum

For more information on the registration lettering, see theDecree of April 8, 2009 on identification marks for pleasure craft at sea, Article 5.

The registration number (or registration number) must be visible inside the cockpit and on the hull of the boat. The number followed by the letter F is inscribed on both sides of the vessel, while the name of the vessel is carried at its stern.

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The boat's registration card

Similar to the gray card of a land vehicle, the license plate is a document which contains various information:

  • the name of the boat (or currency of the boat)
  • the dimensions of the boat with length and width of the hull
  • the type of boat: sailboat, motor boat, yacht, catamaran ...
  • the year, place and method of construction
  • the type and power of the engine if the boat is so equipped
  • the name, first names and address of the owner
  • the place of registration
  • the registration number in the national register.

It must be in the possession of the owner each time he goes out to sea and during any land trip to prove his identity, his ownership and the compliance of the pleasure boat with the rules in force in the event of an inspection.

Why register a pleasure boat?

The registration is recorded in a national register in order to allow the French administration or other States (if you are sailing in an international zone or in the territorial waters of another country) to know the identity of the registered owner in the event of a disaster, rescue or assistance. This unique identifier being issued only under certain conditions, it also makes it possible to ensure that the pleasure craft is indeed compliant with current safety standards and that its owner is in good standing with the administration - navigation license, boating title (traffic card and or act of francization granting the right to fly the French flag), payment paid from DAFN (Annual Right of Francization and Navigation) ...

Please note, the registration of the pleasure boat does not in any way replace your navigation license attesting to your ability to navigate, which you must hold.

When to apply for boat registration?

For a new boat, the dealer or manufacturer is likely toregister provisionally the boat, allowing the buyer to sail for a month while the registration process is taking place. If this solution is not offered to you, you must make your request as soon as possible. first registration of a pleasure craft in order to be able to navigate.

Indeed, it is mandatory before launching the pleasure craft.

Get your first pleasure craft registration so you can sail.

As part of a second-hand purchase, there is a change of ownership therefore the new owner must request a new registration card (or a new deed of francization), by attaching the duly signed deed of sale.

For foreign boats, an application for first registration must be completed first, for which you must ensure that you obtain the certificate of cancellation of the previous flag beforehand. This request should be addressed to the Maritime Affairs office or to the Customs Service, depending on the characteristics of the boat.

Any change must also be brought to the attention of the administration in charge, such as a change of domicile of the owner, replacement of the engine with a different power ...

The owner keeps his navigation title as is, with a validity limit of 10 years for traffic cards and for an indefinite period for francization acts.

The necessary procedures and documents: new boat or used boat?

In addition to the registration request, the purchase of a new or used boat requires the gathering of a number of documents by the seller and the purchaser in order to finalize the transaction. These documents may differ depending on the location of the boat (in France or abroad, in the European Union or in other States ...) and depending on its characteristics. In the event of deletion from the maritime or river domain, the procedure also involves a separate procedure.

Selling a boat engine: a supervised procedure

One of the most recurring legal proceedings in the field of pleasure craft, the engines of pleasure boats are unfortunately subject to theft. This is why motorization is the subject of special attention by Maritime Affairs. It is therefore essential to have all the necessary documents at all times, especially during registration: supporting documents in the event of an engine change, purchase invoice, information on the engine in the deed of sale, identity documents. of the seller, etc.

Registration of pleasure craft for navigation in inland waters

If the navigation permit in the maritime zone allows access to internal waters (rivers, rivers, lakes, canals, etc.), the reverse is not valid. To navigate in inland water and register your new or used pleasure craft, the procedure is similar. However, the lead administration is changing, as is the software that issues traffic cards. While for maritime areas, the operation is carried out on the PUMA (Unique Maritime Portal) software, it is the SIMBA Boat Registration System which manages inland waters.

Indeed, whatever the type of river pleasure craft, the registration application is mandatory. Simplified for boats with a length of less than 20 meters and / or with a light displacement not exceeding 10m3 (data obtained by multiplying the length of the hull by its width and by the draft), it therefore becomes more complex that his light displacement exceeds 100m3 or if the boat length exceeds 20 meters.

The registration application must be made to the Commercial Court of the Commune of the Supervisory Commission (there are 6 in the country, covering the entire metropolitan territory and Corsica).

Otherwise, registration remains necessary with the River Safety Instructor Center for pleasure boats with a hull length between 5 and 20 meters, a light displacement exceeding 10m3 or being equipped with a 6 HP engine (4.5 kiloWatts) and above, measurements below which the procedure is optional.

The change of owner or the withdrawal from the fleet must be brought to the attention of the instructor service within one month.

How to register your boat: the procedures

If in certain specific cases and in the pilot metropolitan departments, the administrative dematerialization service developed by the State makes it possible to apply for online registration for a pleasure boat intended for maritime navigation, this still only concerns a minority of very specific pleasure craft.

If you wish to register your boat, our specialist advisers will take care of your boat registration application file from A to Z. Our service dedicated to nautical professionals as well as to individuals takes care of all the administrative part, allowing you to concentrate only on the fundamentals. If in doubt about completing the form corresponding to your request, do not hesitate to contact one of our specialists.

How do I receive my new registration?

SIMBA (inland waters) and PUMA (maritime) boating registration software send your registration document by email as soon as it is ready.

As for the francization deed, you will receive it by post according to the time limit indicated during the request.

Navigation titles: traffic card or francization act?

Obtained from the DDTM for pleasure boating in maritime areas or from the DDT for navigation in inland waters, the traffic card is mandatory for any vessel of less than 20 meters in hull length according to its characteristics:

  • at sea for jet skis and boats if they measure less than 7 meters and if they have a motor with power less than 22 administrative hp
  • in indoor water if the boats measure 5 to 20 meters and if they have an engine with a real power of 4.5 kW (6 CV vapors) at least.

The request foract of francization (authorization to fly the French flag and application of French law for regulation and taxation) from the Customs Service is then not necessary because it only applies in the following cases :

  • whether the boat (sailboat, motor or hand-propelled boat) measures more than 7 meters
  • if the engine power reaches or exceeds 22 administrative CVs for pleasure boats or 90 kW real for VNMs
  • if you are planning a navigation in foreign territorial waters.

The Motor Watercraft (VNM): what registration procedure?

A VNM is a craft measuring less than 4 meters in hull length and powered by a combustion engine.

Depending on their actual engine power, jet skis are also subject to different procedures, at least that of applying for a traffic card. When it reaches or exceeds 90 kilowatts, the VNM must also be francized and may be subject to either payment of the DAFN (Annual Francization and Navigation Fee) or to that of Annual Passport Fee.

The deed of sale for a pleasure vessel

Just like when you acquire a land vehicle, changing the owner of a boat involves completing a number of documents in order to be in order and to ensure the legal value of the transaction. The procedure differs depending on whether it is a purchase, an assignment in the event of a donation, an inheritance, whether it concerns the boat or only an engine ...

Go to our dedicated page and find all the deed of sale models.

The DAFN: a customs formality for French-language pleasure boats and VNMs

When a boat or VNM owner has obtained the French certificate for his boat, he must also pay a DAFN (Annual Right of Francization and Navigation) to the Customs Service. As of francization, payment is made each year depending on the length of the hull, the engine power, etc. Depending on the age of the vessel, a allowance for obsolescence is applied.

The DAFN is used to finance various services such as the French State, CELRL (Conservatoire de l'Espace Littoral et des Rivages Lacustres), SNCM (Société Nationale de Sauvetage en Mer) and various eco-organizations responsible for recycling ships.

In order to know the amount of your DAFN, we invite you to use our page dedicated to its calculation.

Flag radiation

Flag deregistration is compulsory in the following situations:

  • before any new request for a new flag (e.g .: when you apply for a francization act to fly the French flag if the boat is foreign, the radiation certificate must have been obtained for the old flag)
  • before any request for a change of zone to switch from the maritime zone to the river zone because the registration will be different.
  • if you want to export or sell your boat (or jet ski) outside of France.

You now know, taking into account all the parameters, what procedure to undertake to register your pleasure boat and you can entrust us with your registration file. From there, we take over to carry out all the administrative procedures. With, boating has never been so easy!

Registering a boat: all you need to know about the administrative proc –